The Way Ahead …

December 10th, 2020 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

I am sure that I’m not alone in wishing good riddance to 2020.

It must be said that the Covid has generally brought out the best in people, with a generosity of spirit shown at many levels.

Yet when taking account of those who have lost their lives, or the lives of their loved ones, the racing industry is put into stark perspective.

The return of people to the tracks, albeit in limited numbers, was a welcome sight last weekend. I can tell you that having been able to attend a handful of meetings at Cartmel and Carlisle the lack of racegoers rendered the experience soulless and depressing.

The most frustrating thing from my professional perspective was to be fenced off in my designated area within sight of the owners yet unable to get near enough to speak and mingle with them.

I am no economist but I’m not sure that the industry will ever fully recover.

Racing employs about 85,000 people in the UK alone, with latest estimates suggesting that 20 per cent of jobs are under threat. Racing is Britain’s second-biggest spectator sport with the BHA estimating the cost of the pandemic to the industry at about £300 million.

The lack of cash could lead to an exodus of owners. Looking further ahead there are no obvious successors to the Maktoums, Coolmore, Gigginstown or individuals such as Trevor Hemmings, although having said that it was encouraging to read in today’s Racing Post about Noel and Valerie Moran’s investment.

Let’s hope they enjoy a run of good fortune to encourage their further involvement.

In the last few months acing’s authorities have done well to convince the government that it can behave in a responsible manner and the portents for the future are more positive, thanks to the creation of a vaccine.

However I think we would all agree that the racing that has taken place has been rather more informative than stimulating, in part due to its initial lack of continuity.

Epatante was undeniably impressive in the Fighting Fifth and deservedly holds a strong position at the head of the Champion Hurdle market but at 7/4, and with three months to go, there won’t be many takers. I am holding out hopes that Honeysuckle, who remains unbeaten, will be allowed to take her chance, while Saint Roi, Aspire Tower and Abracadabras have shaped well on their returns.

Al Boum Photo still heads the market for the Gold Cup despite not having yet appeared on the track. Minella Indo was quite impressive on his comeback, but Santini and Lostintranslation have both been beaten. In truth nothing has yet set the pulse racing for the Gold Cup.

The Stayers’ Hurdle is shaping up into an intriguing contest. Thyme Hill was tuned up for his return and duly won, but Paisley Park showed he was no back number when chasing him home while I like Sire Du Berlais, who loves Cheltenham having won at the last two Festivals.

The so-called ‘bankers’ for Cheltenham are beginning to emerge with Shishkin trading at just 6/4 for the Arkle Chase and Envoi Allen even shorter at 5/4 for the Marsh Novices’ Chase.

Zanahiyr, trained by Gordon Elliott for the aforementioned Morans, has impressed in his two hurdle races and looks a worthy favourite at this stage for the Triumph Hurdle.

Things will move up a gear over the festive season and although ‘normality’ may not be as we once knew it, let’s hope for something akin to our traditional way of life.

Bye for now